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What Is An Autonomous Car?

Autonomous cars, or self-driving cars, are seemingly things made from science fiction. However, with the technology that we have now and the persistence of various car manufacturers, these high-tech pieces of machines are already real. 

An autonomous car is a vehicle that drives itself. Basically, it uses multiple equipment such as sensors, radars, and cameras to navigate itself. Of course, the inclusion of artificial intelligence is also a game-changer. It allows the car to travel to different destinations without the assistance of human drivers. 

Surely enough, that’s the primary qualification for a car to reach before it can be called autonomous. It should be able to drive without a human operator in various prescribed destinations, regardless if they are within the internal map or not. 

Companies today, such as Ford, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen, Tesla, and even Google, are in the race of making a fully autonomous car. For instance, the recent test of Google involved the use of self-driving cars such as the Audi TT and Toyota Prius. This fleet of vehicles were made to navigate over 130,000 miles of highways and streets in California. 

Of course, they made it. And without the need for human intervention.

How Autonomous Cars Work?

One of the most curious aspects of these self-driving cars is their very mechanism. How do they work? How can machines drive efficiently, avoid collisions, and follow traffic rules?

Well, the answer is pretty simple. It lies within the proper utilization of artificial intelligence. Keep in mind that these AI technologies are the brain of these self-driving cars. The creators of these vehicles are using large quantities of data coming from machine learning, image recognition bases, and neural networks to teach these machines how to drive on their own. 

The neural networks, for instance, are the ones that help distinguish different patterns in the data given to the cars. These inputs are then taken by the machine learning algorithms. By the way, the data being mentioned here are not just plain numbers. They also include images from cameras that the neural network uses to identify trees, curbs, street signs, traffic lights, and any other factors that are present in any driving environment.

Let’s take the Waymo project, which is funded and operated by Google. Waymo is a self-driving car that utilizes different sensors and cameras into its system. It also uses Lidar, or light detection and ranging, which is similar to radar but on a much more advanced scale. The data taken from these components help the system of the car identify what’s on its surroundings. The inputs are then used by the machine so that they can predict what it should do next based on the existing condition that it detects. 

Surprisingly, these processes only happen in just a fraction of a second. It does not lag, just like your computer does. It is one of the powerful and promising feats that Waymo has. 

But of course, the development of these robotics and systems involved in autonomous cars are reliant on maturity. Specifically, they should be used frequently. They have to drive more. They have to experience different conditions and scenarios on the road. Once they are exposed to various environments, they will be able to learn deeply–just like humans. And since they are machines, expect that they have better efficiency and decision-making. They can use calculated moves that would make them better and safer drivers. 

Autonomous Features Of Some Vehicles

Waymo is just an example of what an autonomous car should be. And while it is true that this vehicle is almost entirely independent, it still has some manual functions that require human intervention. Accordingly, a human driver is still required to override the system of the vehicle, but only when it is purely necessary. 

In technical terms, you can say that Waymo is not fully self-driving. It still has issues that it must address. But the most promising right now is that it can drive when the conditions are ideal. 

Other cars today have autonomous features, but not self-driving. Examples are the following:

 

  • Lane-centering steering – Activates when the driver steps into the lane markings. It will nudge the vehicle automatically to the marking on the opposite lane.

 

  • Adaptive cruise control – It automatically regulates the distance between your car and the car in your front. 

 

  • Hands-free steering – It is a feature that centers the vehicle without the need for you to touch the steering wheel. But of course, your attention is still necessary.